Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Don’t Do This in 2014… and Ever Again

Towards the end of last year, I began to wonder when the ‘receive God’s prophecy for your life in 2013’ pop up advert was going to change. I didn’t have to wonder for long. Before the end of December, the date changed to 2014 and right there, sandwiched between the ‘study in Ireland’ advert and the ‘affordable jeans on Jumia’ advert, there is the heavenly call to you to ‘receive God’s prophecy for you for 2014’. As we speak, the advert is still there, it will be there till November when it changes to ‘2015’.
I have no idea of the individual or ministry behind this campaign but here is my two pence: don’t go online receiving prophecy from anyone, regardless of who it is. Many years ago in Nigeria, it became a tradition for people to wait with bated breath to receive prophecies about which celebrity will die in the coming year, the politicians that will win/lose, the national disasters that will come on us as a nation and on the world generally. Except for vendors of trashy tabloids- who I believe made up some of these things, - nobody made any profit from these episodes. Definitely not the Body of Christ. Gradually, people are shunning the annual prophecies and popular men of God seem not to dish the out as much- if they ever did. Note that this is different from the annual scriptural watchword that a local church chooses to focus on for the year/month. What we talk about is the act of seeking signs and experiences and prediction of events that sometimes don’t happen thereby causing the name of God to be ridiculed amongst men.

This hopping about looking for beautiful prophecies for a new year is no more than sorcery and seeking mediums to ‘hear God for you’. It is bad enough that we have created prayer contractors- those who pray and fast on your behalf for a ‘small fee’ aka prophet offering: No sir, you are not paying for services rendered; you are merely giving to God’s servant who has redefined the kindness of Jesus by taking it upon himself to fast and pray on your behalf while you go your merry way. Note again that this is different from having a person intercede on your behalf.

Instead of seeking prophecies and signs, do this: clutch your Bible and read it with all you’ve got. As you will find out, embedded in it are incredible promises of God for your life. You will discover a ‘more sure word of prophecy’ rather than cunningly devised fables. Beyond promises, you will find the Beauty, Grace, Wisdom and Glory of God. You will also realise that being a Christ follower is beyond blessing hunting. Most importantly, you will find that the whole of the Bible is one chapter and one verse and about one person only- Jesus, the Christ. When you see this Jesus as He wants to reveal Himself to you, you will find life eternal. The kind you won’t ever get in an online prophecy dispenser.

(Dan 11:32 [KJV])
And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Hugging Strangers We Know

It was the dawn of a new year and she was there. Right beside me. I didn’t know her; I didn’t know her name and I didn’t know anything about her except her lovely brown Bible and the fact that right here, right now, she was standing next to me and she was smiling. I smiled too and we did the natural thing when everyone roared ‘happy new year’- we gave ourselves a big warm hug. It was the kind that makes you feel good from your hair to your toe nails. 

We are One Body in Him
This very moment, although she was a stranger, she was also my sister and that fact wiped out every other fact. She is my sister. Period. Why? Because we share the same Brother, the First Born of our family. His name is Jesus, The Christ, and if you believe in Him, you and I are siblings, directly related by the Blood that truly matters.

So the first person I hugged this year was a stranger and the only thing we knew we had in common was our faith. We met at a three day conference in Adebayo, a tiny village near Ibadan, Nigeria. It was my first time there and I had gone on the invitation of a friend who eventually didn’t attend the programme due to an unexpected health issue. So there I was in a sea of people, lost, friendless and lonely- yet I was among family. It was a wonderful conference. The word, worship and prayers were amazing and life transforming and there was no room for pity party.

I initially felt that although it was an interdenominational programme, the organisers were conservative (SU folks) so I expected to be judged. Why was I automatically defensive? Heaven knows. But I also know that a partial reason is because we are usually stuck up in our ways with our pretty little (or mega) churches and our doctrines. Anyone who even barely strays off what we believe is heretic. But dear friend, this divided church isn’t what Christ paid for and it sure isn’t the one He hopes to meet when He returns.

Regular readers may have observed how I tend to harp on unity among local churches. Jesus did too and He spent a lot of His final words on praying that they may be one. Do we need that prayer or what! Thankfully, during the conference, when everything was focused on Christ rather than doctrine, there was almost nothing to argue about. Nothing. Granted, I wore skirts all through, covered my hair during service (a kind sister gave me a scarf), sang more hymns in three days than I had sang January to December but those are very secondary issues that didn’t matter enough to deter me from enjoying a great family time of learning about faith in Jesus.

I encourage us all today to look beyond the things that divide us and look at the Cross of Christ instead. At this Cross, we are the same- no Greek or Jew, man or woman, African or Asian, Baptist or Pentecostal. God sees all His children through Christ and except one of us is none of His, how will you and I not be family?
Go ahead, hug a stranger. You know the kind I talk about. 
Miss August

PS: Happy New Year everyone. Sorry to come on here so late. It is extremely crazy at work January- April. By His grace, we will keep things up.

Friday, 20 December 2013

What Did Victoria Get For Christmas?

We know how it goes down on the streets of Lagos, the city of hustlers. It is not called the city of wisdom for nothing. You either move or you are moved. If you choose to be graceful, calm and collected somebody must do the best to ruffle you. Truly, Lagos is not for the faint hearted. Interestingly, this ‘roughness’, this pervasive ‘hit or get hit’ feature is what endears  Lagos to many. Despite this unexplainable love, some parts of Lagos prompt fear and disdain. Places like Mushin, Oshodi, Ajegunle… Once you mention these names, people become alert and clutch their purses tighter. You can’t blame them, miracles happen in these places and nobody wants to be part of the statistics.
Victoria's Christmas Present is no secret.

What has this got to do with the early Christmas gift God gave my friend and me? You will see it in a minute.

Victoria and I met up after the close of work on Monday. We spent the time gisting about everything about unfinished post graduate thesis, dresses and theology. She even vented about theology and false doctrine. This is very unlike her. We lost track of time and said our goodbyes around 9:00pm. This was a good day for both of us.

Come Wednesday, I tried to call her all through Tuesday and Wednesday but her phone wasn’t reachable. I just thought the fantastic service providers were at it again. It happens all the time, no big deal. However by Wednesday evening, I was getting worried. When she saw me after our weekly evening service, she said she lost her phone after we met on Monday. As expected, I wasn’t happy especially because she just got the phone after someone ‘touched’ the other one at a worship gathering (don’t ask me to explain how that happens).

Anyway, she lost the new phone in Mushin and without voicing it; both of us knew that the phone was gone for good. Whoever took it wasn’t answering calls and after a while, the battery ran out.

Now, Thursday evening, it became very very urgent for me to see her so that we could tidy up some unfinished business about a small project for the homeless. No phone, no Vicky. That evening, as I walked to the mall for the last phase of my Christmas shopping, I thought about how nice it would be for her to find her phone or for us to somehow ‘jam’. I wanted it; I needed it but I couldn’t pray about it because, well, she lost the phone in Mushin of all places. You never recover things like that. It was probably with the third or fourth owner within 48 hours. I didn’t say it but I kinda doubted the possibility of God answering a prayer for the phone to get recovered. Also, the mall was out of our routes so, the chances weren’t great.
As I almost finished shopping, I picked out a bottle of wine for my boss when I bumped into some thin tall girl, and you guessed it, it was Victoria! We jumped away from each other and tried not to scream. She recovered first and told me to touch her, she was flesh and blood. I had never been so happy to see her. Miracles of all miracles, she was holding her phone. The very one! My eyes still bulge as I type this. I asked to know what happened and the story was nothing but a miracle. Apparently, the blessed guy who ‘fapped’ the phone from her was already feeling at home with his booty. He had taken enough pictures, especially selfies. On second thoughts, he decided to start on a clean slate. He took the phone to one of the thousands of phone repair shops that specialise in helping gadget thieves wipe out any possibility of being caught.

This story drags, but here is it: the phone repairer told the new owner to come back and then, he called the police. In Mushin! In this Lagos! I was more than surprised. The police called everyone who was someone on her contact list and they were able to trace her aunt who informed her of how to get the phone from the police station.

My people, it’s only a phone o but this is a marvellous thing indeed. Immediately she told me, I unconsciously said out loud “why do I have so little faith”?

So, we got a truly beautiful Christmas gift- not just the phone or the opportunity to meet but a renewal of our faith. And isn’t that what Christmas is about? When you think to yourself “How shall these things be”? Don’t fret for with God, nothing shall be impossible. Including a pregnant virgin, a baby King and the Word made flesh. That my friend is Christmas; that the impossible happened, that the God of the whole universe came down and dwelt amongst us.
This Christmas, remember that He is Emmanuel. He is for you, He is with you and the best part- He is in you.

Merry Christmas in advance. 

My Question For You
What do you think is impossible for God to do? Why not risk a little faith?

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Version of Paul We Need To Be

Like we observed earlier, Apostle Paul’s prayers for each church often reflected his relationship with and perception of that church. In other words, he made custom-fit prayer points to address the pressing issues in their immediate environment. This was no copy and paste “I do not cease to pray for you…” jargon. There was purpose, there was passion and there was a lot of heart in these prayers. If you are looking, you can’t miss it.
In continuing the series of prayers by the Apostle, these are the three points from Colossians:
Heartfelt prayer at work...lol

1.       That ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;  That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;  Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness;

2.       That your hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;  In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

3.       That God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:  That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. (A prayer he sought for himself)

These are prayers that we ought to pray not only for ourselves but our local church body and management team and the body of Christ across the world.
This is not to whip up emotions but somewhere, at the moment, a missionary is being martyred, a vibrant pastor of a growing urban church is questioning his own faith and wondering if life is  all he’s believed it to be, a church member is going through ‘spiritual winter’ and God is at His farthest distance, the pastor’s spouse is going through long-term illness and the teenage children are wondering how merciful and loving God must be since He specialises in dishing out cancer to His own…

I just saw a site that claimed that 1,700 pastors leave the ministry every month! That’s in one country I guess. We can go on and on but you get the idea. Beyond praying these prayers for ourselves, let’s emulate Paul and pray with heart and soul for our churches. God knows we desperately need it. I believe prayer never goes to waste so even if you don’t see results, just keep at it.

If you are wondering where to start praying for the church, you can start with the most important prayer on Jesus’ mind even as His death loomed. 

Beloved, let us love one another. Love is truly expressed when we offer up heartfelt passionate prayers on behalf of our brothers. So take time today and be a Paul; pray for your church, pray for your pastor; pray for missionaries in forgotten places, pray for your next door neighbour. Let your love inspired prayers transcend race, gender, denomination and doctrine. We are better united than divided. For as Jesus said, “a house that is divided against itself cannot stand”. And contrary to what you think, it wasn’t Abraham Lincoln that said that.

Over a year ago, a dear friend founded and invited me to a small group that met weekly to pray for the church body across the world. We weren’t together for more than three months before everyone moved and we haven’t seen in over a year but till date, at the exact day of the week and time, I remember, and sometimes, I pray. 

My Question For You
What do you think your local church needs at the moment? Will you whine and threaten to leave the church or get on your knees and tell God? In what ways do you think your pastor needs your prayers?